No deal likely if MPS won’t bite the bullet
YOU can only put off the inevitable for so long.
Before Christmas, Theresa May pulled the Commons vote on her proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement.
She admitted that she was going to lose.
But on Tuesday, she finally puts her plans to the House of Commons.
Maybe she has a cunning plan to win MPS around. She might announce at the last minute that she’s won some sort of concession from the EU, to make her agreement more palatable to MPS.
If she does that – and it works – then the panic is over.
But it’s not clear if there’s any way Mrs May can persuade MPS to vote for her plans.
What happens if the withdrawal agreement is rejected?
One answer is that nobody knows.
It will be for the Prime Minister to go to the House of Commons and set out an alternative plan, but nobody has any idea what she will say.
It seems she hasn’t even told her closest colleagues in the Government.
However, we do actually have some idea what happens next.
The fact is that the UK is to leave the EU at 11am on March 29, 2019.
And it’s also a fact that at this point, we have no withdrawal agreement setting out what happens next.
In other words, we’re headed for a “no deal” Brexit – which could be disastrous.
It would mean that trade with the EU continues, but the UK is treated just like any other country that doesn’t have any sort of deal with the EU. There would be delays importing products from EU countries, from car parts to fresh vegetables.
And UK firms would find it harder, and more expensive, to export to the EU.
It seems clear that a majority of MPS oppose a “no deal” Brexit, and want to stop it happening. And they probably can. But the danger is that there may not be any majority in the House of Commons for any alternative proposal.
If you want to avoid a no-deal Brexit on March 29 then there are only really two possibilities.
You either agree a deal before then, or you don’t leave then.
The first appears to be impossible.
Maybe we could negotiate a new and improved withdrawal agreement with the EU. Labour claims it could do it. But even if that’s true, there’s no way it’s going to happen before March 29.
So the other option is to delay (or cancel) Brexit.
And that’s possible. There’s been some debate about the legal implications, but it seems clear that the UK could simply take back the declaration (known as “Article 50”) that we want to leave.
The EU would also, it seems, agree to a delay to allow the UK to hold a general election or referendum. But very few MPS are willing so far to bite the bullet and tell voters we shouldn’t leave the EU in March.
If they won’t do that then a nodeal Brexit looks likely.
■ An anti-brexit protester, left, and a pro-brexit protester argue outside the Houses of Parliament